With the focus of this year’s Men’s Health Week on promoting boys’ and men’s health, experts agree that whilst being fit and healthy in a physical sense is important, emotional issues are taking its toll, particularly on Aussie men.
Sadly, society has built an expectation among men where they feel they should be able to manage and deal with any life issues that arise, no matter how daunting. They often don’t talk about their concerns with partners, mates or professionals, seeing it somehow as less than ‘manly’ to discuss their challenges.
- The key pressures for men include changes in societal dynamics at work, and in family and personal life.
- Men’s tendency is to focus more on physical problems, and they are less likely to discuss deeper emotional issues
- Men are more willing to report fatigue, irritability, loss of interest in work or hobbies, and sleep disturbances rather than their feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and excessive guilt.
Generally men tend to be more in tune with their physical self than their emotional or inner self, downplaying their feelings and any symptoms that may arise as a result of this denial.
By concentrating on their physical health, we are dangerously ignoring men’s potentially tumultuous internal and emotional health” Family Therapist Karen Phillip explains
Leading business coach, David Howells, who donates his time to run men’s vulnerability workshops around Australia agrees. David says, “Men are inherently frightened of the V word – “Vulnerability”, and are too ready to adopt the ‘she’ll be right mate’ approach to their challenges. What we need is a cultural shift that makes it OK for men to discuss openly how they feel, what challenges they’re facing and how this impacts their feelings of being a man.”
Having researched and worked with thousands of families, I have seen first-hand the toll that not talking about these issues is taking on our men and their families” says Karen.
There are many men that drive home after a long day at work, park their car in their driveway and just sit, often too fearful to enter into the pandemonium of their home.
What do you need to know:
- While women have friends and family they openly discuss their issues and problems many men can’t openly or freely expose themselves and their feelings. While some men do have these options, their social support network, particularly with other males, is usually very poor.
- Men seem to keep worrying matters bottled up – and the trouble with bottling things up, is that it manifests or explodes in very unhealthy ways.
- Men can either explode or withdraw from family and friends when emotional issues become overwhelming. Men often become depressed when feelings overwhelm them and this can lead to avoidant, numbing and escaping behaviors, which can then lead to aggression, violence or even suicide
- Men are designed to fix things and they can feel it is a weakness or that they are a failure if they are unable to solve their own problems or deal with life issues that arise.
- Try your best to encourage the man in your life to chat about how they are FEELING about their challenges and stresses.
- Many men find it less confronting to attend Counselling as they can do this in isolation, without judgement and speak about their issues.
- Men can find the vastness of a woman’s emotions quite overwhelming, and they often have no idea how to respond or how they should act when a woman demonstrates these emotions.
- Most men have learnt for years how to hide their emotions, it is simply what they do, and this no longer works in today’s society of openness and equality.
- Our men are confused, scared and overwhelmed at how they should respond to their own feelings, let alone their partner who wants or needs to talk about their own issues and their concerns about their partner whom they no longer recognize as “himself.”
- Men have a greater tendency not to recognize or respond to their own negative emotions or distress, which may result in chronic or severe emotional issues.
- When a man or their family experiences financial pressures, death of a family member or close friend, conflict within the home, family or work, they often withdraw and feel incompetent because their role is to be the strong one, the provider, the support, the lead. He feels he needs to support his partner, family and children, to make things better or right.
Behaviors you can watch out for:
- You no longer recognize your partner as “himself”
- Become withdrawn
- Easily antagonized (become explosive)
- Violent behavior
- Suicidal “comments”
- Less interested in people and things he used to enjoy
What can you do:
- If you have a friend, partner, brother or son who is demonstrating these behaviors, pick up the phone and chat to him, offer to listen (without judgement) and if you feel he needs professional help, support that. Encouraging him to attend a counseling session to simply unwind and unload can often help get him to someone who can help.
- Emphasize that it is not a sign of weakness to seek help, but a sign of strength to recognize and obtain the help needed.
This is a silent problem that men often will not discuss out of fear of being judged.
What are we missing when male suicide the highest killer of men under forty-four years in Australia, why are so many of our men facing chronic depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts? As the loved ones and partners of the men in our lives, we must do something.